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Opinion on Cracks


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This is a solid brick house built in 1862, with several additions. There are hairlines cracks on all 4 sides of the orginal house. For the most part the cracks are from top to bottom and seem random. There are no anchor plates or star bolts. I found no issue inside the house, but it has been completly renovated. I have never seen this before and am open to any informed opions. I'll probably punt to a mason or engineer, depending....

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I will give you my somewhat uninformed opinion.

If you found no abnormalities other than the cracks I would consider this a cosmetic defect although a bad one that would be very difficult to fix. I would attribute it to differential movement of materials or lack of expansion joints or both.

It would be nice to seal the cracks to keep water out but the fix may look ridiculous and not worth it. I ran into this a couple weeks ago on a brick building built in the 1950s. It seems like the same thing is going on here.

I could attribute some of the brick cracks to foundation cracks but most I could not.

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Interesting points made. Here are some more pictures. I'm going to stop back by and take another look. I don't understand how another layer of brick (facade) could have been added and still have the wood detailing just under the gutters on the front.

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Your newly posted pics clearly show that house got brickfaced. It's a 2-coat stucco type application with the second tinted coat scratched off to look like mortar joints.

In addition to the surface cracks, in the basement/crawlspace you'll find brick powder. The Portland-based brickface coating does not allow moisture to migrate to the exterior, causing nasty stuff to happen to the old skin-fired bricks concealed within.

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Hey Mark,

I agree with all above, except I would not regard it as a cosmetic issue in my report. There is more going on there than just a little cracking; it is differential movement. I don't think you can really fix it to not crack.

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Kibble just nailed it.

It's a brickface job. That explains the weird cracking; it's the stucco skin cracking, not structural settlement.

I kept staring at those pics of the perfect mortar joints and brick, but it didn't sink in that it's not even brick.

They got two technologies at odds with each other; old brick and lime mortar overlaid with high tech Portland cement skin.

Long term, it's a mess.

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They got two technologies at odds with each other; old brick and lime mortar overlaid with high tech Portland cement skin.

Long term, it's a mess.

How long? So the repair for the cracks is patch and paint like stucco?

I now think the building I posted is stucco with a CMU inner wythe. I saw nothing wrong except the cracks. None of the exterior was loose or failing. The building is 60+ years old.

To achieve this finish must be extremely tedious. I'm guessing this is not a modern technology.

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No, yours looks like brick to me. There's stretchers and headers, and this process is pretty rare in Chicago. There's a new one on Kedzie just south of Logan square, east side; took a leaker, wrapped it in foam, and they "roll" out the imprint with a dryvit like material. Maybe it is dryvit....I don't know. After the new one, I've only ever seen one other. It's a mess.

The long term mess is you got an old skin fired brick and lime mortar assembly that was probably needing some serious lime renourishment, pointing, repointing, or similar brick repair. Some of those old one's out in the country had crappy sand, lime quality debatable, and very irregular brick. Someone got the brilliant idea to just wrap the whole shebangabang in stucco, which doesn't breath or allow moisture transfer.

I'm just making a WAG, but that old building is still soaking up moisture from the earth, the moisture is migrating around as it does, it's trapped behind the new moisture resistant stucco stuff, and you know what happens next. Could be decades, but my guess is the long term is delaminated stucco and foam. Or, maybe just cracks. Regardless, it's not going to work like the brochure says.....imho.

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Your newly posted pics clearly show that house got brickfaced. It's a 2-coat stucco type application with the second tinted coat scratched off to look like mortar joints.

In addition to the surface cracks, in the basement/crawlspace you'll find brick powder. The Portland-based brickface coating does not allow moisture to migrate to the exterior, causing nasty stuff to happen to the old skin-fired bricks concealed within.

Thank you Bill, Kurt and everyone else. Just when I thought I knew it all... I went back out to the house and sure enough it is in fact 2 coat stucco over old bricks. I have never even heard of this being done. I?m sure glad I asked. When I was doing the inspection (by myself) I never questioned what I was looking at; I expected it to be brick, it looked like brick, the entire street is an historical district of old brick homes. A good lesson learned.

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